Wednesday, April 8, 2009

24 hours to go

20 20 24 hours to go.....I wanna be sedated!(or I at least may NEED to be sedated) Ah yes, the last regular season meeting of the year between the Bruins and Habs. I love it. But honestly, what does this game mean? Does it "prove" anything for either team? The answer is, probably not. Boston, already in possession of nine of a possible ten points against the Hab-nots doesn't need to prove to themselves (or anyone) that they CAN beat Montreal. So from the B's side of things, this is as close to "just another game" as it gets against them. Obviously, things get amped up more when these teams meet, but this time the priorities are vastly different.

For Boston, the goal is to come out of the game healthy first and foremost. Beyond that, they need to simply sharpen up their game. They looked very sloppy against Ottawa last night, so they'll be looking to get back to their system and tighten things up a bit. Winning, of course, would be great. But as long as they play the game the right way, they can handle a loss. Now obviously, I'm hoping they pound the Habs senseless on the ice and on the scoreboard. But, I understand what's important.

Things get a little more interesting when you look at this game from the Canadiens side. It isn't impossible for them to slip entirely out of the playoff picture if they lose Thursday. They only have one game remaining after Boston...and that is at home against Pittsburgh. Being at home helps, because we all know they get the benefit of doubt there. And when the refs hesitate to make a call, the home crowd usually convinces them that some dastardly has in fact been perpetrated upon their hero's and suddenly the arm goes up, as if it has a life of it's own. The other thing in their favor, if they do need that game to get in, is that Pittsburgh probably won't have anything to gain. So the likes of Crosby & Malkin may not even play, and if they do, they'll just be looking to stay healthy.
Of course, for Montreal to slip out of the top eight, the Panthers and Rangers would have to keep winning. Not a sure bet by any chance, with NYR having a home & home with Philly over the weekend, and the Panthers playing a suddenly hot Atlanta team, and finishing up against the Capitals. Does anyone really expect Florida to win both of those games? Yeah, me neither.
Assuming the Rangers win at least one game this weekend, and the Bruins take care of business tomorrow, Montreal could have to win in their finale to avoid slipping into the 8th spot (or worse). That being said, you can bet they'll bring their best effort to the Garden. The B's have to be ready for that from the onset. Again, not a "must win" scenario for the Eastern Conference winning Bruins, but still a game you want to win. Beating Montreal is always good, it's even better if you can do it when they may be your first round opponent.
So how does Boston go about this game? Without going overboard, they have to play their usual physical style. For starters, that is how they play their best hockey. And as I mentioned, they have to fine tune all area's of their game heading into the tourney. Besides that, Montreal's biggest weakness....and one I'm stunned they didn't address at the deadline, is overall team size. This, as usual, is a very small Canadiens team. And let's face it, even the guys that aren't tiny, can be demotivated if you constantly bang them and make their lives miserable (yes Kovalev, I'm looking at you). So, simple game plan; dump, chase, bang and get to the net. It really is that simple. Boston plays their best hockey that way, and it just so happens to be the style that causes Montreal the most trouble. A heavy forecheck against them is always a key. Now, with their defensive core depleted, it is even more effective. Whenever you can force Komisarek to have to think and react quickly, it's a win for you.

The match-up is interesting because both teams enter it pretty banged up. The Scabs come in without Markov or Schneider on D. Boston, more than likely, will be without Wideman, Ference, Axellson and Kobasew. I've seen plenty of our Francophone friends whining about injuries. Cry me a river mes Ami's, the Bruins have been ravaged by injuries all year to many key players. Yet somehow cobbled together the best record in the East. It's called depth. And it's something that a long season, and hopefully a long playoff run tests.

So what do I expect? Honestly, I expect it to be close to a "normal" Montreal-Boston game. Komisarek will be his usual cheap, yappy pansy-ass self. Laraque will courteously ask Mr. Lucic if he would, in fact, like to engage in a display of the fisticLaraque's desire to uphold his ever changing version of the enforcers code. Whatever. BGL is marginally more useful on the ice than Colton Orr. And if you've been reading this space, you'll know that that doesn't exactly make big Georges an All-Star. While I surely don't want the Bruins to "back down" from the BS, they have to be smart about it too. Once again, they have to ask themselves a simple question; "is it worth getting hurt fighting an idiot like Laraque, especially this time of year?". Clearly, the answer is no but they have to continue to make the statement that nobody comes into the Garden and gets away with anything. If that means doling out some punishment, then so be it.
And speaking of wouldn't be a bad idea to put some more doubt into Carey (please stop calling me Jesus) Price's head. Not sure if Price or Halak will get the start, but the game plan should be the same. Set up shop in the Montreal crease and make the goalies life miserable, whichever one it is. Prise, especially is battling his confidence already. Nothing better than a cozy night with Bruins forwards to unsettle him even more than he is. Yes, he had a decent game against New York. But lets remember that New York is an awful offensive team. So settle down Habs fans, it's a bit premature to start thinking Price is "back". Best possible scenario of course, is to shell whichever goalie starts, forcing a change in net. Then, hammer that one too. Voila, both goalies rattled.

Bottom line is, it should be yet another fun night of hockey at the Garden. No idea exactly how this one will play out, but I'd be stunned if it wasn't an "energetic" game. The crowd will be ready, and I'm sure the boys will be too.

I usually don't like to make predictions until the day of the game (better idea of line-ups, goalies etc). But what the hell, I may not have time to post tomorrow.
So, I say Boston wins it 4-1. Goal scorers are Bergeron, Wheeler, Chara and Savard.

As far as Rough Stuff (and I know I didn't really talk much about it yet), I wouldn't be surprised if some of the less likely suspects get involved. When we think Habs-bruins and potential fights, Thornton, Lucic and Chara come to mind for Boston. While obviously everyone assumes BGL....and possibly Kostopolous (it would be foolish to expect Komisarek to go. He hasn't dropped the gloves all year, other than the beating he took from Looch).
I don't see anyone obliging BGL for one of his pathetic "arranged" bouts (this guy should seriously consider hiring Don King). But something is bound to happen, in the flow of the game. And when it does, I expect Kostopoulos to be involved (he's nearly as cheap and annoying as Komisarek by the way). For the B's, this looks like a good FINAL opportunity for Montador to do SOMETHING to endear himself to the home crowd. (If he hasn't yet figured out that he's the odd man out come the playoffs, someone should really explain it to him.). If Monty doesn't step up, or isn't around at the time, it wouldn't stun me at all to see Stuart be the one to have about....although, and I'm just thinking out loud here....those two are on the same D pair. Hmmmm.....sounds more like the Sheriff will have to lay down the law. And I think Hnidy would love the opportunity to do just that.
20 20 24 hours to go........ Go B's-Kynch

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